The bigness of Arcade Fire’s music is made to fill a venue like the Greek. But the bigness of their fan base could have easily filled five. Last night’s show was so packed that security actually started begging fans to stop pushing their way onto the floor. “We’re gonna have to bulldoze our way through here,” one fan said, eying the sea of wall-to-wall bodies ahead, as a security guy next to him tried to steer people away. “No more room!” he shouted. “There’s no more room down here!”
When the lights dropped and the headliners stepped on stage, you could have heard the screams from Golden Gate Park – where, by the way, the hardiest of music fans had just traveled from after a day of Hardly Strictly festivities. When Arcade Fire launched into their first song, “Ready to Start,” the theater floor took on a life of its own, heads bobbing and arms pumping. These fans were born ready.
With seven band members total, each wielding three to five different instruments, plus two drum sets and an entire percussion arsenal, the two-tiered stage looked about as crowded as anywhere else in the amphitheater. Each song was arranged with a unique performance, which incorporated both a light show and a stream of surreal images projected on a giant video screen. But most impressive was the continual changing of the guard, as band members appeared to be continually rotating around the stage throughout the set, proving that all of them are multi-talented musicians.
Lead vocalist Win Butler acted as the band’s spokesman last night, occasionally grabbing his mic at center stage to thank the crowd. “I don’t know if it’s a little bit chilly for you, but for us, it’s f—kin summer!” he said, followed by a prompt apology for his language. But there were no apologies necessary, especially after Butler announced that $1 from every ticket sold would be donated to Partners in Health – an organization focused on healthcare in Haiti.
Although the performance included a few seemingly spontaneous moments (Butler climbing onto the piano, his brother, William Butler, running out into the crowd with his tom drum to take a half-lap around the Greek, etc.), the entire performance came off as extremely well-rehearsed and carefully choreographed. Which is understandable considering all of the logistics that must be involved in preventing band members from running into each other or their instruments all night long.
The set list included as many songs from the group’s tried and true albums, Neon Bible and Funeral, as it did from their new one, The Suburbs. During “Ocean of Noise,” two trumpets from openers Calexico added a bit of alt country to the band’s otherwise primarily indie set.
Photos by Christopher Victorio